BR: Another Woman (1988)

May 8, 2017 | By

Film: Excellent

Transfer: Excellent

Extras: Standard

Label:  Twilight Time

Region: All

Released:  April 21, 2017

Genre:  Drama

Synopsis: After turning 50, Marion re-examines her choices in lovers, marriage, and career, and seems ready to burn old bridges for a clean start.

Special Features: Isolated Mono Music Track / Theatrical Trailer / 8-page colour booklet with liner notes by film historian Julie Kirgo / Limited to 3000 copies / Available exclusively from Screen Archives Entertainment and




If Interiors (1978) had Woody Allen oozing with the somber mood, visual minimalism, and dreadfully serious characters of a dead serious Ingmar Bergman drama, Another Woman is a more satisfying hybrid, unfolding like a filmed stage play in which every scene is tied to a central character in a deep state of ennui.

Marion (Gena Rowlands) may have survived turning 50, but the quietness of that transition into her next decade seems unnatural, and when she rents a room to write a book, the steely academic overhears the soft discussions between a psychiatrist and his patients bleeding through acoustically drafty furnace gratings from the neighbouring apartment.

She doesn’t encounter pregnant Hope (Mia Farrow), the shrink’s most intriguing client, until the film’s final act, but the overheard self-observations and confessions push Marion to question the validity of her marriage to Ken (Ian Holm); their supposed friends with whom they engage in almost nightly dinners, outings, and chats; and Marion’s relationship with brother Paul (Harris Yulin), which became strained after her overbearing father (John Houseman, in his final film appearance) chose to bankroll Marion’s more enterprising studies instead of Paul’s bubbleheaded artistic pursuits.

Allen sticks with his standard hour and a half running time – in fact at 81 mins., this is reportedly his shortest feature – and applies some very clever flashbacks and editorial tricks to compact Marion’s complex past and build subsequent scenes as a series of micro-events which force a drastic decision. Flashbacks sometimes include present day Rowlands inserted into scenes after an edit or camera movement, or they’re events in the near past which still feel potent because their content is so inextricably tied to Marion’s seething dilemmas.

This is an exceptionally lean drama with no fat, and while it might have worked in a longer form, you do wish there were more moments with Yulin, Sandy Dennis, Kenneth Welsh, Blythe Danner, Betty Buckley, and David Ogden Stiers (doing a dead-on impression of a younger Houseman).

When Marion sees Hope on the street, she attempts to follow, but in getting lost she serendipitously bumps into former best pal / stage actress Claire (Sandy Dennis) and her husband. Drinks loosen tongues, and Claire pretty much eviscerates her long lost friend which launches a ‘nightmare’ sequence in which people from Marion’s present and past assume different roles which she largely observes from the sidelines.

Allen uses the loose play-within-a-play nightmare to trace Marion’s peculiar romantic alliances – breaking up marriages, yet feeling in the right for her indiscretions since they proved creatively and personally rewarding – and ultimately confront Ken with suspicions of infidelity. Her pattern of behaviour eventually comes full circle and forces Marion to decide whether 50 means more of the same within a safe marital artifice, or radical change.

Allen’s undoubtedly dealing with the nagging fear of life choices – the right ones, the bad ones – and unfulfilled relationships which may have yielded not only a better life, but transformed Claire into a better person, and it’s that fear of having regret which makes the film so potent. It’s a work that will affect audiences based on age and personal experiences as a well-made film; an intriguing character piece; a provocative and incisive examination of a steady yet emotionally numb marriage; and a poetic yet unsettling portrait of regret.

Allen doesn’t editorialize Marion’s ultimate decision because she’s already argued out the consequences with Ken: if she stays, she can tolerate his indiscretion and is free to start her own fling(s), knowing Ken will tolerate it and might eventually come around to intimacy; and if she wants to break free, Ken will accept that, being a weird amalgam of pragmatism and spinelessness.

The reasons for the film’s failure to click with audiences and critics in 1988 can perhaps be found in Orion’s trailer which sells the film as a dry Woody Allen comedy instead of a drama with occasional bone-dry barbs. It’s no wonder anyone sold on a comedy felt cheated, and Allen sought a new story to find that balance of dark comedy, lightness, and drama in later masterpieces such as Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989). Interiors feels a little too much as an artist’s earnest attempt to show us he can do Serious Drama, whereas Another Woman is the superior compromise, if not hybrid.

Gene Hackman is fine in the small supporting role as Larry, the man who got away because he was insufficiently assertive with Marion; Philip Bosco has similarly brief moments as her former university teacher and lover Sam; and Betty Buckley steals the scene from a roomful of theatre and film colleagues in her one and only scene as Ken’s irate ex-wife Kathy, but it’s Harris Yulin who shines as the estranged brother who’s gently blunt in explaining the distance that’s kept them separate in spite of living in the same city. Yulin’s best known for playing creeps, thugs, schemers, and smug villains of small words, but as Paul he shows a richer variety of his skills as an actor of great subtlety.

Allen did manage to give his film a visual Bergman touch by engaging the latter’s master cameraman Sven Nykvist, but the film’s look features warm off-whites and soft pastel colours which flatter the warm décor. The gorgeous costumes only appear dated when Ken’s teen daughter Laura (Martha Plimpton) wears what was then en vogue – short cut jackets, loud and clanging jewelry, and fat belts with oversized buckles. The HD transfer is very clean, and the film grain of the fast film stock has been preserved, giving the nighttime exchanges between Marion and Ken some extra grit.

Twilight Time’s Blu-ray sports an isolated mono music track and the film’s problematic trailer, and Julie Kirgo’s liner notes offer needed background on this very satisfying reflection on the impact and validity of regret.

Woody Allen films released by Twilight Time include Love and Death (1975), Interiors (1978), Stardust Memories (1980), Zelig (1983), Broadway Danny Rose (1983), The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), Radio Days (1987), Abother Woman (1988), and Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989), and the Allen starring in the Red Menace satire The Front (1976).



© 2017 Mark R. Hasan



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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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